Posts in recipes
The S'more You Know
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Nothing quite captures an outdoor adventure like the camp classic s’mores. These things will turn the most crotchety adult into an excited, wide-eyed kid in mere moments. I don’t know if it’s my love of The Sandlot, or the connection to campfires and outdoors but s’mores instantly put a smile on my face. Although it’s not always easy finding vegan options, Ryan and I have done handfuls of trips and brought s’mores along. The best advice I can give is to plan ahead.

   Joshua Tree January 2017

Joshua Tree January 2017

When we go on a trip, I make sure to grab a bag of Dandies and the only readily available vegan graham cracker I can find, Nabisco. I usually grab a couple of chocolate bars from work. You can pack them into a meal prep box and throw them with your camping supplies or take them on a flight. Most of the time I forget I even packed it until we are at our campsite, so it makes for extra magical nights.

   Colossal Cave Mountain Park in Arizona

Colossal Cave Mountain Park in Arizona

For even more magic, I try switching things up with new cookie/chocolate combos. Here are some tasty combinations that may make your starry nights even more spectacular. As always, the instructions are simple: graham, chocolate, flaming ‘mallow, graham. Then, you scarf.

GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP

Enjoy Life Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Divine Dark Chocolate w/ Hazelnut Truffle

Dandies Marshmallow

CHOCOLATE COVERED RASPBERRIES

Nabisco Grahams

Divine Dark Chocolate w/ Raspberries

Dandies Marshmallow

   Chocolate covered raspberry s’more

Chocolate covered raspberry s’more

PEANUTTY BUTTER CUP

Back to Nature Peanut Butter Creme Cookies

Theo’s Peanut Butter Cup

Dandies Marshmallow

NOCCIOLATA & STRAWBERRY

Nabisco Grahams

Nocciolata Dairy Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread

Sliced Strawberry

Dandies Marshmallow

   Nocciolata and strawberries are a match made in s’more heaven

Nocciolata and strawberries are a match made in s’more heaven

Always remember that adventure doesn’t stop when the hiking boots are kicked off for the day. Little changes to your campfire traditions can make wonderful and extraordinary memories. The possibilities for this are truly endless. Remember to plan ahead and thank yourself later.

Thank you so much for checking out Vegan Backpacker week! See you tomorrow for the beginning of my local spotlight.

Warm Food and Unexpected Adventures

There are times when no amount of preparation can save you from unexpected bad weather on a camping/hiking trip. You can read about my first time camping at Joshua Tree here if you want to understand why I fall in love with the unexpected.

There is something so wonderfully powerful about experiencing something in a new and unique way. Ryan and I endured something most people do not while camping in the desert. I will never forget the smell of that soaked sand or how cold the air felt that morning. We were the only people in the campground that night, and it felt like the park belonged to us.

Since Ryan and I got together, we’ve had the privilege of taking at least two trips together a year. We usually take a huge road trip at the beginning of January, so we’ve seen a lot of unusual weather. The first year, we hit snow in New Mexico and Arizona. We got rained out in Southern California. We shivered the night away while camping in Southern Arizona. At the beginning of this year we happened to arrive at the Grand Canyon in the transition from snow to thunderstorm.

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We drove into Grand Canyon Village overnight and felt like we had stepped into the past. Even though it was two weeks into January, Christmas lights decorated the entire street. A thin layer of snow covered the ground, only adding to the magic of the night. The next morning did not have weather looking any better. It was less than 60 degrees and drizzling all day. Ryan was a bit bummed, but I really loved it.

The gray sky didn’t wash out the brilliant earth tones and layering like a bright sun would. Every single color looked vibrant and bold. I have never felt so small in all my life. We walked the park with barely any company, and we stood at one of the highest points as the rain picked up and started to steadily fall again. I sent Ryan a postcard that day, one he wouldn’t see for at least two weeks. It said “Here’s a pic of the sunny Grand Canyon! So glad we got to experience the fog and rain and clouds. Thank you for pushing and coaching me towards the edge. I’ve seen things I never would have seen. Love, Mo”

Ain’t it the truth. Sometimes, you have to experience the unexpected to make an adventure truly extraordinary.

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If you didn’t check out my post yesterday, please do! I did a little video about a 4 Day backpacking adventure. Here’s the recipe from Day 1 for the pb choc chip banana oatmeal I posted about.

   Chocolately, peanutty, nanner goodness.

Chocolately, peanutty, nanner goodness.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA OATMEAL

Serves 1-2

Prep Time: 2 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes

  • 1 cup instant oatmeal

  • 2 Tbsp dehydrated peanut butter like PB2

  • 2 Tbsp dehydrated non-dairy milk

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  • 1/4 cup freeze-dried bananas (get these from any health food store)

  • 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water

Mix everything except for the water together in a quart size ziploc bag. When ready to make in the backcountry, boil water. Pour over oatmeal. Stir until combined and let sit for about 5 minutes.

   Such high hopes, but I’d say to definitely hold out for Just Mayo to bring back mayo packets

Such high hopes, but I’d say to definitely hold out for Just Mayo to bring back mayo packets

The oatmeal was delightfully good and filling. I’m definitely taking this with me out on the trail. I also used that Loma Linda lemon pepper fishless tuna with some Chosen Foods vegan mayo packets. I…was not a fan of the mayo. It completely ruined it for me. I do not want sweet in my pickles and I do not want sweet in my mayo. Um…no.

DAY 1 MENU (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack)

Tomorrow we’ll be taking a look at elevating your camp meal game and the menu for Day 2 of vegan backpacker week. Thanks for reading!

Strainer Things
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You know what's more bone-chilling than the upside down? The magical world of online dating. My partner and I met in the fall of 2015 when I was weirdly optimistic about signing up for bad dates again. I was in a...uh...transitional time in my life and dating apps were a distraction from the reconstruction of my life. I didn't think much when I swiped away, but Ryan was my very first match of my very first dating app, and the rest is pretty much history.

But this post isn't about the love that eventually blossomed from that day. It's about the people who have enriched my life by the way they surround themselves with love and authenticity. This post is about Ryan's parents, Pam and David Strain.

I remember the first night that Ryan told me his mother wanted to meet me. I nearly had a panic attack. I was rebuilding my life and felt mostly like a failure. I was fresh out of a horrific relationship and lacked confidence in general. My mental health was all over the place and I was not sure I'd be able to make a good impression. However, Pam and David were very welcoming and truly charming.

I could go on and on about Pam's boisterous laugh and the joy she gets when she is surrounded by family. She has the brightest smile, coolest glasses, and checks in with all of us to make sure we're staying politically aware. WOKE AF! She got us Beto for Texas signs for Christmas for crying out loud! YES! She is smart and opinionated and crafty. And she is an organizing badass. She makes sure every birthday dinner and family trip cultivates joy in everybody. Plus...she makes sure I have vegan dessert when we gather. VEGAN. DESSERT.

David is just as inspiring. He lives for authenticity. He wants to know the story behind everything. I could listen to him talk for hours about the origins of a certain wine or the way a spice is harvested. He loves his granddaughters so much and shows them how to be fearless, inquisitive, and self reliant. He raised his children to be accepting, genuine, independent, and imaginative. Plus, he truly gives the greatest hugs.

Tonight's dinner is all about them. Pam recently told us that her perfect meal was a bowl of pinto beans with fresh pico de gallo and a slice of cornbread. Well, if that simplicity isn't the most satisfying meal, I don't know what is. And, because, David expects nothing less than the ultimate flavor, I made sure to pack the spice. I used his three favorite peppers throughout the meal. Jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros. Let's go!

   Spicy pinto beans with avocado and pico de gallo; jalapeno cheddar cornbread

Spicy pinto beans with avocado and pico de gallo; jalapeno cheddar cornbread

I don't have a recipe for the pinto beans. They were pretty much borracho beans, though. I started with a large yellow onion sauteed in vegetable oil with garlic, 2 sliced serranos, and 2 habaneros that have been poked to let the spice seep through . Add salt to draw the water out of the onions. Cook until translucent and some bits are brown. Add rinsed and picked over pinto beans and 6ish cups of water. Add some oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer. Simmer for about an hour or until the water is about 1/4 inch above the beans. Add a scoop of Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, a tall can of beer (if ya like), and some salt. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.

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I decided to add even more spice and did some jalapeno cheddar cornbread. It's just a modification of my own cornbread recipe. Fair warning: I prefer cakey, sweet cornbread. For the cheese, I went with So Delicious cheddar shreds.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Serves 9

Prep Time: 5 minutes    Bake Time: 45-50 minutes

 

  • 1 ½ cups non-dairy milk
  • 1 Tbsp pickled jalapeno juice
  • ½ cup non-dairy yogurt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy cheddar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 9 pickled jalapeno slices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x9 inch  cake pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl combine the milk and jalapeno juice.  Whisk in the yogurt, oil, and sugar until combined. Sift in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until just combined. Fold in the chopped jalapeno and cheese. Pour the mixture into the cake pan. Sprinkle with more cheese and evenly place jalapeno slices on top of batter

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top looks dry and golden brown.

   Jalapeno cheddar cornbread

Jalapeno cheddar cornbread

This was seriously the best meal I've had all week. It was filling, non fussy, and warming to the belly. It made me feel satisfied. So good!

Finally, I just want to thank Pam and David for the family they have created. I've learned so much from everybody in the past 3 years. I'm thankful that David got me to be more mindful of living in experiences and seeking out knowledge. Whether it's unexpected shots of tequila w/ habanero juice on a chilly Colorado night or learning all the secrets of green lacewings being unleashed upon a garden. And I'm so thankful that Pam taught me that it's okay to break the rules every once in the while. It's okay to play in the dirt and laugh with your whole body and be unashamed.

Thank you for everything.

And, thank YOU for reading another inspiration week post. Stay tuned for tomorrow's culmination of the week of love. Happy blogging!

Hawaiian Flava

Today's inspiration comes from a lifetime of friendship and love. I have known Brent for just about half my life. I don't remember the exact moment we met, but one of my earliest memories was showing up to his place for an Arbor Day celebration. We got WILD back in those days. Brent always threw the most amazing parties with truly memorable moments. I remember when he was a pale goth kid with bright blue hair and an infectious smile. I instantly fell in love with his dry, dark sense of humor and his huge heart.

The thing about Brent is that he will give the shirt off his back to help somebody in need. He is one of the hardest working people I know, and it has given me great joy to see how our friendship has grown and blossomed in the past three years.

How I met Chris is a slightly different story. I remember officially meeting him for the first time at Brent's graduation dinner from culinary school. At the time, I was so happy Brent found somebody who brought him such joy. Chris has become one of my special friendships. He has a the most delightfully dark sense of humor. He is so smart and witty and truly connected to nature and the world around him.

Fast forward several years, and I had the honor of officiating their wedding. There are moments in life I can never forget. I was so filled with emotion that I could not stop crying as I tried to share the vows they had secretly written for each other. Brent and Chris are two of the kindest, most giving, funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Every month, my friends and I meet for family dinners. Most of the time, Brent and Chris come bringing those Hawaiian flavors, and it has been an absolute delight. Here's to my attempt at bringing the flavors of paradise!

   Hail seitan! White Mountain seitan block

Hail seitan! White Mountain seitan block

HAWAIIAN FRIED RICE

Veganized from this recipe

Serves 6

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Cook Time: 10 minutes

  • 2 cups diced vegan ham
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Follow Your Heart Vegan Eggs
  • 3 cups cooked and cooled rice
  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2-3 chopped green onions

Preheat a large skillet or wok to medium heat. Pour vegetable oil in the bottom. Add vegan ham, onion, and red bell pepper and fry until tender.

Slide the vegan ham, onion, and red bell pepper to the side, and pour the vegan eggs onto the other side. Stir often to cook through. Once cooked, mix the vegan eggs with the vegetable mix.

Add the rice and pineapple to the wok. Pour the soy sauce and sesame oil on top. Stir and fry the rice and veggie mixture until heated through and combined. Add chopped green onions and heat through.

   Hawaiian fried rice, vegan style

Hawaiian fried rice, vegan style

Feel free to use any vegan egg in the mix. I just happened to have Follow Your Heart on hand. As for the vegan ham, I used White Mountain seitan (with added soy sauce and liquid smoke). Any vegan ham tube from an Asian market is probably preferable. It is super important to make sure your rice has been thoroughly cooled, or you will end up with mush.

Brent's fried rice is better, but this was pretty good and easy to whip up! Special thanks go out to my two shining lights of joy and inspiration, Brent and Chris. Thank you for nearly two decades of friendship. I appreciate all the support, love, and advice you've given me throughout the years. I love y'all from the bottom of my heart. Mahalo!

Solid as a Rock
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How I met Michele is as magical as our friendship. I had been living in the Coachella Valley for a couple of years and had not made a single friend since moving from Texas. At the time, it was just painfully awkward for me to create friendships. I never felt cool enough and was suffering from a lot of social anxiety, which made personal interaction seem like an obstacle too hard to conquer.

One semester, I decided to take a geology class at a local community college. In walks this cool looking woman who sat in the back row with me. I might have muttered a passing "Hi" but I almost immediately knew I wanted to be friends. It took several weeks for me to attempt a conversation, but I thought Michele was pretty cool. Always talking to other classmates about her love of science and she was really great at geology.

   Michele once packed me fruit cups with a bag of Tajin for my road trip back home to Texas. She's basically the best. Here's to Michele and salty, spicy, fruity good ness!

Michele once packed me fruit cups with a bag of Tajin for my road trip back home to Texas. She's basically the best. Here's to Michele and salty, spicy, fruity good ness!

The first time I talked to Michele was when I saw her wearing a vegetable shirt and I asked if she was a vegetarian. When she told me yes, I got super animated, and that's when the friendship began. When the semester was nearly over, I nervously invited her to a Festivus party and was delighted when she showed up. We've been great friends ever since.

From rainy mornings on San Diego beaches to Whedon Wednesdays to grocery trips when I was rocking a back brace, we have had some magnificent adventures together. Michele has seen me at my best and worst, and loved me no matter what. She is the type of friend I turn to when I want a real answer with no filter. I trust her entirely and she has made me a better intellect, a better feminist, and a better friend. I love her with my whole heart.

Today's MoFo is inspired by Michele's love of spice. She loves adding hot sauce to things, putting Tajin on fruit and adding a bit of chile to her esquites. Here in San Antonio, we just call 'em corn cups, and they are mighty delicious bowls of creamy, spicy goodness. And a friggin' food cart institution. Let's DO THIS!

CHIPOTLE CORN CUPS

Serves 2-4

Prep Time: 5 Minutes  Cook Time: 5-7 minutes

  • 4 ears corn, shucked
  • 4 Tbsp non-dairy margarine
  • ¼ cup vegan parmesan
  • ¼ cup non-dairy mayo
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, optional
  • 1 tsp lime zest, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • Chipotle chile powder
  • Hot sauce, optional

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the corn and boil for around 5 minutes, until tender. Corn should give a bit but still have that fresh, crunchy pop.

While corn is boiling, prepare dressing ingredients. In a large bowl, add the margarine, parmesan, mayo, nutritional yeast, and lime zest together. When the corn is ready, cut the kernels off of the cob and into the large bowl.

Stir everything together until thoroughly mixed. Portion off (2 servings as a main, 4 portions as a side). Serve with lime wedge, chile, and hot sauce to taste.

   Sexy chipotle powdered dusted atop a cup made of corn and mayo and love

Sexy chipotle powdered dusted atop a cup made of corn and mayo and love

Straight up, lime zest isn't a thing in most corn cups. However, I really love lime with chipotle and it does brighten up the citrus a tiny bit. For the parm, I used Violife, but there are so many brands out on the market now. Plus, tons of recipes for you to use. I also like nooch in mine because I'm weirdly obsessed with it and it adds to the flavor. Super easy and delicious snack for when you want to pretend like you're hunting down deals at the Poteet flea market on Sunday. Don't forget to grab an agua de jamaica on the way home!

That's all for now! Happy MoFoing!

Dear Mama
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Today marks the beginning of Inspiration Week, and I wanted to kick it off by talking about the woman who has inspired me most throughout my life: my mother. I suppose the best place to start is from the beginning. My mother grew up in the small West Texas town of Abilene. She was one of the younger siblings in a family of 9, raised in a single-parent household by my grandmother, Eula Peoples. From the time I was young, she always told me that, though they lacked in money, there was always a wealth of love to go around. My mother never felt like she was lacking in anything. Her childhood was spent running around with my hilarious Aunt Evelyn and their cousin, Doris, doing absolutely hysterical things that only bored children from a small town would do.

  Mom and me in '83? '84?

Mom and me in '83? '84?

My mother was raised by women. Strong, Black, and beautifully Southern women. There is a certain amount of feminism that comes with that. So, from the very beginning, my mother fostered a sense of self love and awareness in her children. A deep and profound respect for our history, equality, and knowledge. It is something that I cherish when I think about my past. It is something that I try to radiate out into the world to this day. My mother was the first to leave home, not for marriage, but for career. She joined the United States Air Force as a teenager and spent over 24 years serving this country. To this day, she proudly works for the United States government as a civilian. My mother has always been my heroine, a success story about following your dreams and being fearless. I think about all the places I've traveled, all the cross country trips I've driven alone...and I am reminded of how my mother did it all before me and in a much more epic way. My mother survived segregation in the deep South. She survived growing up poor in West Texas. She survived being on her own at 19. She survived Saudi Arabia and countless months away from her children. She survived every obstacle she has ever encountered. And she's seen so many wonderful and beautiful things in her life because of it. She is my inspiration in every sense of the word. 

How does this tie into MoFo, you ask? Well, my mom also happens to be a culinary bad ass. People around the way know that if "Ms. Pam" is bringing something it is going to be LEGIT. I cannot think about my mother without thinking about her famous cinnamon rolls. These beauties have been my source of joy for most of my life. When I initially went vegan in 2001, she mothatruckin' veganized them! These rolls are featured at every Christmas gathering, and when I lived in California, she made sure they were ready every single time I came home to visit. Here they are in all of their wonderful glory. I did one minor modification for my own sanity and cut back a tiny bit on the fat. Feel free to add more! Peep game:

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MS. PAM'S CINNAMON ROLLS

Makes 12 rolls

Prep Time: About 1.5 hours  Bake Time: 25-20 min

Dough:

  • ⅓ cup non-dairy margarine, melted
  • 1 ½ cups non-dairy milk
  • 2 ½ Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Filling:

  • 2 Tbsp softened non-dairy margarine + 1 Tbsp non-dairy margarine
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp non-dairy milk or creamer
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, mix the yeast and 2 Tbsp of sugar together. Add the milk and melted margarine and stir until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Sift flour and salt into the yeast mixture and stir until everything comes together.  Knead in enough flour until you get a smooth and slightly sticky dough (usually no more than ½ cup).  Knead for about 5 minutes, and place the dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

While the dough is rising, prep the filling. In a medium bowl, add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and 2 Tbsp margarine.  Mix together using a fork or your hands. Set aside.

When the dough has risen, punch it down, and knead it into a ball again.  Roll it out into a rectangle that is 10x14 inches. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture onto the dough. Roll the dough up as tightly as possible. Close up the roll by pinching the dough together and pinching the ends. Divide into 12 pieces and place in a greased 9x13 inch pan. Brush the remaining tablespoon of melted margarine over the tops and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise again for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes, while you make the glaze.

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, non-dairy milk, and vanilla until smooth.  Drizzle over the warm rolls.

  Yummy giant cinnamon roll

Yummy giant cinnamon roll

Above all else, I want to thank my mom. Thank you for all of the stories about our family history. Thank you for every Black Barbie doll you could find. Thank you for Black Santas and allowing us to speak our minds at all times. Thank you for love and acceptance. Most of all, thank you for the neverending support. No words could ever express my profound respect for all you've done for me in my life. You are my inspiration. You are appreciated.